London (AFP) – The head of the English Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA) said uptake of the coronavirus vaccine is increasing amid a backlash over the low numbers of players who have been fully jabbed.
Reports suggest only seven of the Premier League’s 20 clubs have had more than half of their players fully inoculated against coronavirus.
Vaccination rates are also lower than the general population further down the English football pyramid.
The most prominent reasons put forward for the hesitancy are that players are young, healthy individuals less likely to suffer the worst effects of Covid-19, and the influence of anti-vaccination propaganda on social media.
Maheta Molango, chief executive of the PFA, said his organisation were working to make sure players were fully educated on the consequences of not taking the vaccine.
“We want them to make an educated decision based on science, not on rumours or myth or misinformation towards the right source of information.
“Our role has been to drive them towards the right source of information.
“Our perception, because there are GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) reasons which prevent us reading the actual data, is that the percentage (of vaccinated players) is picking up. It’s encouraging, we’re heading in the right direction.”
Incentives have been discussed by the Premier League to encourage more players to be vaccinated.
A bespoke easing of quarantine restrictions for players returning to their clubs from representing their nations in countries on the UK’s red-list for travel over the coming week only applies to those who have been fully vaccinated.
Under the deal agreed between the UK government and the leagues, players still have to isolate in private accommodation for 10 days, but can leave once per day to train or play.
However, Molango called for the 10-day quarantine period to be cut in half.
“What is happening is that they will go away, approximately 14 days for the national team, followed by a 10-day quarantine so it’s 25 days without seeing your family,” he added.
“The players understand that they are not above the law. They understand that when you come from a red-list country there needs to be quarantine. What they’re saying is ‘why a 10-day quarantine?’
“When they go from one bubble to another bubble, make it five days. They will be happy with that. I think it’s a unanimous opinion (among players) at the highest level, not just Premier League but also EFL (English Football League) and WSL (Women’s Super League).”
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